CAPTURING LIFE: Tiger Yearbook staff encapsulates 2023-'24 memories across district to last a lifetime

May 3—Deadlines, pictures, interviews and design are all elements the Tahlequah High School yearbook staff has had to work with over the last year to bring the district a finished product that encapsulates 2023-24 memories.

The Tiger Yearbook staff usually has around 12-18 members, with this year featuring 18. Staff members work all year long on a themed yearbook, with the theme this year being "Stories We Tell."

A students' journey into yearbook begins with the application process. Melissa Harris, THS yearbook adviser and CareerTech teacher, said the application is not complicated.

"It simply requires students to display creativity and put forth effort," Harris said. "These are truly the most important traits in yearbook staff — the willingness to show vulnerability in order to be creative and the ability to work hard and give time and attention to tasks at hand."

Coverage Editor-in-Chief Gabbrielle Hall, a THS junior, said day-to-day operations fluctuate with the beginning of the year focusing on plans for the yearbook, with the rest of the year having staff members take photographs, write stories and construct the book's design.

Even though yearbook is offered through a class — known as Desktop Publishing and Graphic Design — at the high school, Harris said it is not just a club or activity, as it is a lifestyle.

"It consumes your every thought," Harris said. "You wake up thinking about the story you need to write, you go to bed thinking about the picture you took at the musical that night, and of those 4 a.m. wake-up-from-deep-sleep thoughts of details that cannot be missed."

Portrait Editor Erika Ramirez Esquivel, a THS junior, said for those looking to join yearbook, they should not expect an easy class.

"At the beginning we really don't do a lot, except for ideas and planning, but toward the very end when we have to turn stuff in, it's stressful, but very fun in a way because you get to see all your work throughout the year in one book," Erika siad. "When we finally do get our book, it's so fulfilling because you're like 'Oh, I did this.' It might have been stressful, but in the end we finished it together."

Gabbrielle said the skills people learn in yearbook are often emphasized, but one aspect not always touched on is the staff itself.

"I don't really think about yearbook as a graphic design class or as a writing practice for myself," Gabbrielle said. "I think of it as more of a team-building environment, and I definitely think of it as more of a group of people than a class, so it has become like a safe space for me."

Harris said some key skills students gain from the experience includes time management, communication, adaptability, problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, leadership, work ethic and more. Editor Natalie Bridges, a THS junior, said this was her first year to be in yearbook. Besides the stressful aspects of proofing, Natalie said she learned a lot from the class, including various design programs, writing and editing.

"Yearbook takes the student from human to super human — faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound," Harris said.

Like many extracurriculars, the COVID-19 pandemic caused yearbook to be different for a few years, but things turning back to normal has allowed for recent books to reflect more happenings at TPS.

Design Editor-in-Chief Katie Pursley, a THS senior, has been a Tiger Yearbook staff member, like Erika, since her freshman year, a feat that doesn't often take place.

Katie said her freshman year — 2020 — was odd due to the pandemic and a software change.

"Normally freshmen aren't allowed on the yearbook staff, but it was a weird year," Pursley said. "We had a big staff that year, so I go to meet some cool people."

Pursley said the last two years returning back to normal has allowed for the group to get more coverage of clubs and extracurriculars.

The 2023-'24 Tiger Yearbook is set to feature signatures and messages by TPS students next week, with the staff picking up the items May 3.